Blue Laws

Dear Renea,

Hi.  I’m a Christian who tries hard to live for God the best I can.  I like to know whether certain things are sins that are unclear so I’ll grow more in the Lord.  I know I’m far from perfect.

Is it a sin for a married man to go out to lunch for a female friend as long as they’re going out together just as friends and as long as they’re not spending too much time alone together.  I know it’s indeed a sin without question to commit adultery.  I also know it’s a sin to look at a woman to lust after her based on a Matthew bible verse.  I’m aware married people should have safeguards in their marriage to prevent adultery such as avoid getting “too close” with someone of the opposite sex, don’t spend too much time alone together, don’t share marriage problems with someone of the opposite sex unless a 3rd person is with you, don’t be behind closed doors alone with someone of the opposite sex, etc.  Does God want us to go to extremes with safeguards such as a married man shouldn’t ride alone in a car with another female unless a 3rd person is with him, a married man shouldn’t talk on the phone while he’s home alone, a married man should let his wife know his password to his e-mail account, etc?  I know God doesn’t want us to be the paranoid and jealous type because being paranoid and jealous often ruins relationships.  I’ve never committed adultery before, and I’m not married.  I just want to know these things so I’ll be prepared when I get married one day so I can be a good husband.  Take care.

Dear Brad,

The Bible can be really helpful when it comes to how we should live. But it doesn’t say anything about dating, does it? It doesn’t say anything about email passwords or riding in cars together… Of course it doesn’t because those things didn’t exist when the Bible was being written. So, what does the Bible say? It says it’s good to get married, and that when we do, we were created to become one flesh–unite our souls and bodies–with only one other person. It also says it’s good to remain single; that no matter our marital status, marriage, children, sex and singleness all have something unique to teach us about life and our relationship with God. So we need each other to know the fullness of God.

The Bible also says it is not God’s way to create a hedge of laws for the people of God just to keep them from breaking God’s commandments. That’s what the Jewish Religious Leaders did. And Jesus was pretty upset about it because it put the people in bondage, and life with God is about freedom (Lk 11:46). Some of these suggestions may indeed be wise for you as you pursue purity in your life (which of course is not just about sex and romance, but all of life). But they are by no means a guarantee that you will be living in a manner pleasing to God. Jesus said that we are to live by God’s commandments remembering that all of his commandments are ruled by one commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And the second one flows so naturally out of it, that we might as well put them together: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Personally, I find it really annoying and generally unnecessary when men and women have all these extra, and as you say, extreme, barriers in place. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, I think that these kinds of boundaries often do more harm than good. They suggest that men, in particular, cannot control themselves sexually (and women cannot control themselves emotionally, as if women don’t want to have sex anyway… but that’s another conversation for another day). They also can keep believers from being able to have normal, healthy relationships and from loving their neighbors.

Now, we can’t run around haphazardly and expect to live. Neither can we find life by creating extra rules for ourselves hoping that we won’t displease God. We have to live in the middle somewhere. That’s living by the Spirit of God who is in us. I like how Eugene Peterson puts it in his paraphrase of Romans 8:

Romans 8

The Solution Is Life on God’s Terms

1-2With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

9-11But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

12-14So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

You are absolutely right when you say God doesn’t want us to be paranoid and jealous. And you’re right that that kind of non-trust and non-communication often ruins relationships. It certainly doesn’t fall under the category of loving one another as ourselves. And I think sometimes we can use these kinds of extra rules to hide the fact that we’re really just being jealous and/or fearful. When we’re motivated by fear rather than faith and love, we can never please God (Heb 11:6).

Thanks for writing, and God bless.

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